You know that movie everyone can agree on seeing—the one that’s not the best, but it’s pretty good and easy and inoffensive? That’s Italian food. I’m not saying Italian cuisine is so simple, it can be appreciated by a culture in which adults without kids go to superhero movies and vacation at Disneyland. But there’s a reason the Olive Garden and Pizza Hut are chains and there aren’t any La Tour d’Argent drive-thrus.
We don’t need any new Italian restaurants. Yes, I’m sure Bestia, Osteria Drago, and Trattoria Neapolis are excellent. How can I be so certain? Because they all serve pasta. Yes, every ragù and carbonara has a totally different recipe. Snowflakes are all different, too, but I don’t need 1,000 snowflake restaurants.
We pretend we love Italian food because the country is an endlessly fascinating collection of distinct city-states with their own indigenous cuisines, each of them “oft-overlooked.” But it turns out, after much cartographic research, that France has different towns, too. Our country was once full of bistros, brasseries, and haute cuisine French restaurants. Now I can’t get a great cassoulet in L.A. because we need one place that makes Roman bucatini and another that serves Venetian bigoli. How about we get one chef to generalize in thick-cut pasta and let me have a bowl of onion soup?
The real reason we have too many Italian restaurants is that we love carbs. This is the city that embraced the idiotic scooped-out bagel, but Italian restaurants somehow provide enough self-delusion: You tell yourself you’re going to Osteria Mozza for burrata, gem lettuce salad, and duck al mattone. But once you’re there, you’re ordering ore-cchiette and tagliatelle. If those menus offered only secondi and no primi, we’d see a lot more French, Spanish, and Japanese places. But Italian is a cuisine that has pasta, risotto, gnocchi, and pizza. Los Angeles would be awash in Hungarian restaurants if their dishes involved huge hunks of white bread.
In five years there will be nothing in L.A. but Italian restaurants and Starbucks. We’ll be taking long lunches and moving back in with our parents. Because, really, who can work after eating that many carbs?